I confess that I’ve never thought about it before. Vacation Bible School, in my head and in my churches, was always a week in the summer where we put on a program and invited children in the community to come. In Frankfort, Indiana, it had been so long since they had done a VBS that we had to start just about from scratch. But there was a great facility for multiple classrooms and it worked really well. In Kenai, Alaska, we went for a one-day model. In Girdwood we often had work teams that came up to assist (or, really, lead) VBS and we had good numbers, even in a little one-room church. In Seward we’ve done it a couple of years as well, trying to plan it around who was going to lead it.
In other words, we’ve always planned around the leaders, what worked for us.
But what works best for the kids and their parents.
Over at Think Christian, I found the following:
What if instead of trying to reboot VBS to fit our own needs, we went out and asked the community these questions: If we could do something for children in the summer, what would that look like? What would be helpful to you?
I asked a friend who is a single parent what that would look like in her community. The difficulty for her is finding childcare to cover the edges of her schedule. There are almost no camp sessions offered in the first and last weeks of her daughter’s summer vacation and there are many programs whose daily schedule is too short for someone with a 9-to-5 job. I suspect there are churches in her town that could, with some energy, creativity and commitment of resources, fill in these gaps.
Every community is likely to have slightly different needs. Finding a way to address those needs, rather than the wants of our congregations, would be radical hospitality. This hospitality would be experienced by children, who would discover that God’s people love and care for them, and their parents, who would feel supported in their efforts to care for their families and fulfill their vocation. It sounds to me like the sort of radical hospitality Jesus was talking about when He invited children to come to Him.
Having VBS the first and last weeks of summer vacation is a great idea. I know of at least one family in our community who finds childcare a struggle those weeks. That would be a way to really be a blessing to those around us.